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Interview with the Minister of Tourism of Mauritius, H.E. Anil Kumarsingh

Embassy of the Republic of Mauritius to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Mauritius celebrated its 51st Independence Anniversary. Alexander Woodman Spoke with Mauritius’ Minister of Tourism, H.E. Anil Kumarsingh

A.W. In 1982, you were elected for the first time as a Member of Parliament of the Republic of Mauritius. Since then, how would you measure your performance as a politician according to the key performance indicators? What were the primary hurdles you conquered that helped you to become a successful politician?

A.G. In 1982 the Republic of Mauritius was economically weak and the citizens were impoverished in view of the dire economic conditions. We knew that change had to be made to our development strategies to ensure that there was economic development in the country. We felt that manufacturing garments and enhancing the textile industry would help to empower our people and generate wealth. Thus, began the process which eventually led to what we now refer to as the economic miracle of the Republic of Mauritius. It took a long time, but this successfully preserved democracy in the country and bolstered the economy.

The Republic of Mauritius is a very small country, it is actually considered to be an island. Within this small island, there are 1.3 million people who have come from Europe, India, Africa, China and the Arab region. Mauritius is considered by many to be an example of tolerance, peace, and a convivial spirit prevails that promotes friendliness among the people. It is like a “salad bowl.” We keep our separate identities, but together we make a great nation.

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A.W.  Three decades later, you were appointed President of the United Nations Security Council (2002). How would you describe the role of the UN as to how to balance the peacekeeping operation? I am curious since there are interests at stake between the contributing countries of the United Nations, each with their own interests and priorities.

A.G. In reference to the national interests and contributions of our neighbors in the United Nations, I would first like to speak about Mauritius and its interests. 

Historically, the Chagos Archipelago was the integral part of the Mauritius territory under both international and domestic laws.  However, the Chagos Archipelago had been excised from the territory of Mauritius by the United Kingdom in 1965. Since then, Mauritius has continually pursued all efforts to complete its decolonization process and restore its sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago. During these years, Mauritius has been helped by the African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement. Other friendly countries as well have supported us, notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  

One of the latest testimonies of International support was the adoption by an overwhelming majority of resolution 71/292 by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 22nd June 2017. The Government of the Republic of Mauritius expresses its gratitude and appreciation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which voted in favor of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution. This mandate requested the International Court of Justice to present an advisory opinion on the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius by the United Kingdom in 1965 before granting it independence. We are delighted to announce that on the 25th of January 2019 the International Court of Justice gave its verdict on our behalf. The separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius before granting it independence was unlawful.

A.W. Since 1968, the Republic of Mauritius has been considered a model of sustainable economic growth during the last five decades. What are the most significant assets you believe Mauritius has, which can impact global development for the next five decades?

A.G.I feel that the substantial assets of the financial services and the ocean economy can drive economic growth in our country. We have a vast expanse of the Indian Ocean which is a significant part of the exclusive economic zone of Mauritius. We are always trying to build partnerships to see how we can develop all the resources of the sea. We may have oil resources as well. Saudi Arabia is strong in that sector, so we have asked the Saudi investors to visit and see how they can add to our growth. Oceans are essential to human life since they provide food security and income for millions of people and are vital to global trade.

A.W. Please discuss the concept of sustainable tourism in Mauritius. How can we increase and enhance our tourism sector so that people will always be excited about travel and exploration?

A.G.Many of us firmly believe that tourism will not be successful unless it is sustainable. It is an integral part of the economy and should never close down as an industry. In our five decades of economic growth, tourism has been a large part of that success. 

It has become one of the main assets that has helped to create employment at all levels. This is why we call the industry the real trigger for inclusiveness and for promoting the welfare and well-being of people at all levels.

If we want tourism to remain one of the pillars of the economy, we have to take the correct decisions. We now need to think differently to face the global challenges of environment and climate change. A sustainable tourism industry will be able to meet and overcome any challenges.

We pride ourselves on the fact that the Mauritius is an all-year-round tourist destination with a well-developed tourism infrastructure, including world-class hotels, and luxury deals that are particularly suited for families. 

We offer exceptional cuisine, activities which are suited for all tastes, from the physically strenuous to the moderate. The Republic of Mauritius is the only country in the world where a visitor can get up in the morning, enjoy breakfast, and then swim with the dolphins. Furthermore, at midday, either before or after lunch, one can go to the park, and even walk with the lions. In the evening, the visitor can admire one of the most incredible sunsets seen in the world.Apart from the sun, the sea, and the beach, our tourism guidelines comprise a wide area of activities which range from adventure to wellness, big game fishing to hunting, horse racing, safaris, helicopter rides, nautical activities, and much more. Mauritius is a must-see destination, a once in a lifetime experience that everyone should enjoy. Its doors are open to the world, and it is well-known for the warmth of its hospitality. I invite all the Saudis, the diplomats, and the ambassadors, to include a vacation in Mauritius for their summer holiday. The best time to visit us is from May through October. Come and enjoy the beauty, the exquisite rivers, the magnificent sea, and the comfortable and cool climate.

H.E. Mohamed Iqbal Latona, Mauritius Ambassador in Saudi Arabia, (right) with HRH Faisal Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Governor of Riyadh (middle), and H.E. Anil Kumarsingh Gayan, Minister of Tourism of the Republic of Mauritius (Photo by Alexander Woodman)

A.W. In 2019, you led the delegation of the Republic of Mauritius to the 10th Riyadh Travel Fair. Please elaborate on the central vision and objective of Mauritius as a participant Country on this occasion. How did this event uphold the bilateral relations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Mauritius?

A.G.The 10th Riyadh Travel Fair was a significant event for us to attend. We consider His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia to be an essential partner of the Republic of Mauritius. We are aware that His Majesty has an incredible number of friends and that the Kingdom is also working to develop new partnerships with other nations. His Majesty is particularly focused on those countries that cherish freedom and are working together for peace and prosperity.

We felt that it was important for us to attend the Riyadh Travel Fair to see first-hand what it was like to be there in person. We were thrilled that it was such an overwhelming success. For that reason, we decided to attend again this year.  It is crucial for us to show our commitment to Saudi Arabia and to support the Riyadh Travel Fair. We hope that this partnership will continue to develop into a very rewarding and successful alliance.

This year, the Embassy of the Republic of Mauritius to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism of Mauritius celebrated its 51st independence anniversary of the Republic of Mauritius. This was done within the framework of aMauritius week in Riyadh from March 26th to March 30th. My delegation also participated in the Riyadh Travel Fair from the 28th to the 30th of March. This was the second consecutive participation of Mauritius in the Riyadh Travel Fair and my second participation in the event. I seized this opportunity to invite all of the media who were present and asked all our Saudi friends to come and visit the Mauritius stand at the fair.

Furthermore, our two countries are currently working on a bilateral agreement in the field of tourism via the private sectors. Since September 2017, Saudi Airlines is flying direct to Mauritius three times a week. This has encouraged the arrival of Saudi tourists to Mauritius which has increased substantially. We are very grateful to the Saudi authorities, who approved Saudi Airlines to fly to Mauritius and thus significantly contributed to the flow of tourists from this great country.

A.W. Which of your segments and industries can add significant value to the development of bilateral relations between the two countries?

A.G.First of all, you need to have a vision and surely without one there can be no development. We are delighted that His Royal Highness the Crown Prince has supported our country in its Vision 2030, which includes tourism and transport development. The vision of the Government is to transform Mauritius into a high-income nation by the year 2030.

The visit of His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz Bin Saud Bin Naif Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, to the Republic of Mauritius last year was incredible. In addition, the signing of a bilateral agreement ensuring extensive cooperation was invaluable. It paved the way for cooperation in the critical areas of public healthcare, infrastructure development, culture, social housing, ICT, and agriculture to grow to new heights.

The bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Mauritius isare excellent. This was expected since Mauritius was first discovered by Arab sailors in the 10th century. Mauritius was added to the world map along with three islands which were thought to represent the southwest Indian Ocean region. They called them Dina Margabin, Dina Arobi, and Dina Moraze.Since it gained independence, the Republic of Mauritius, a multi-religious and multi-cultural country, has struggled from a poverty-stricken land to become a land of strong income economy. This has been achieved through the ties of friendship we have established with other countries in the world. Of great importance is our bond with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I must acknowledge that during tough times, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always stood by our side; and the people of Mauritius will never forget their generosity. We are confident that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will remain our loyal friend and accompany us on our future journeys. The feelings of trust, friendship, and cooperation that have existed between our countries will never disappear. We always feel at home in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and we are confident that all of the Saudi people feel the same way when they visit Mauritius.

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Alexander Woodman

Alexander Woodman is an author based in the Gulf. His research interests include global health, international health policy development, transnational and transcultural health politics, medical ethics as well as international diplomacy.

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